Dear Roger 

Criminal Proceedings in Scotland statistics

As you are aware, we recently completed our compliance‚ÄĮcheck‚ÄĮof the Scottish Government‚Äôs¬†Criminal Proceedings in Scotland statistics¬†against the‚ÄĮCode of Practice for Statistics.¬†I am pleased to confirm that these statistics should continue to be designated as National Statistics.¬†

Crime and justice continue to form a significant part of the public discourse in Scotland, and it is important that the public is informed about how laws are being enforced and justice is served. These statistics cover both criminal proceedings concluded in Scottish courts and the alternatives to prosecution such as disposals issued by Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. They provide a comprehensive overview of the justice system in Scotland and the different routes through it.  

We found many positive features that demonstrates the value and quality of the statistics:  

  • The bulletin¬†provides clear guidance for users on how to interpret the statistics, for instance,¬†how the statistics relate only to the main offence a person is charged with and how the conviction rates depend on¬†several¬†factors so care should be¬†taken¬†when interpreting the stats.¬†¬†
  • The bulletin is transparent about changes¬†to the¬†methods,¬†highlighting them¬†and their impact¬†in the¬†bulletin‚Äôs introduction.¬†One recent change the team¬†made was the inclusion of¬†domestic abuse statistics¬†to reflect the passage of the¬†Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018,¬†as well¬†the importance of including data on this new¬†crime.¬†
  • Information¬†about¬†the data sources, methods and quality assurance provided in the bulletin¬†is¬†detailed and informative.¬†It¬†explains¬†the limitations of the data¬†such as how,¬†due to the nature of the data collection and complex nature of court cases,¬†figures for¬†the latest year¬†should be considered¬†as¬†provisional¬†and may be subject to revisions.¬†We also welcome the improved information about how data¬†about¬†sex is collected.¬†
  • The team actively engages with users in a range of ways and takes on board their feedback.¬†The¬†Crime and Justice Committee,¬†which the team is involved with,¬†facilitates communication between users and providers of statistics on crime and justice to identify the key strategic statistical information required by all interested parties. The team also regularly reviews user requests to drive improvements.¬†
  • The¬†team has¬†demonstrated innovation¬†by¬†including¬†experimental statistics¬†on the Length of the Punishment Part of Life Sentences and Orders for¬†Lifelong¬†Restriction¬†(OLRs), which¬†were¬†published as a supplement to the main bulletin¬†in March 2020¬†in response to user demand.¬†The team continue to evaluate if these statistics meet the needs of users, whether the methodology is suitable, and the scale of any revisions that are likely to be required.¬†

We also identified some ways in which the value of the statistics could be enhanced:  

  • A major gap in the statistics which we identified was the lack of breakdown by ethnicity. Without these¬†data it is impossible to track racial disparity in the¬†Scottish¬†criminal¬†justice¬†system.¬†We appreciate that providing such a breakdown is challenging because ethnicity data are not held on the Criminal History System, the central database used for the recording of information on persons accused and/or convicted of committing a criminal act in Scotland.¬†The team¬†told us¬†it¬†is exploring¬†whether it would be possible¬†to link criminal history data with¬†other¬†data¬†sources, such as the Census,¬†to access information on ethnicity.¬†
  • There is possibly too much summary information at the start of the bulletin¬†(a cover page, infographic and¬†key points section). Cutting this down¬†may¬†aid the overall flow of the bulletin¬†and¬†boost reader engagement.¬†¬†
  • Currently, the HTML version of the bulletin is not as user-friendly as it could be as all the commentary is grouped together in one tab. Navigability could be improved by adding separate tabs for each chapter/section of commentary. This¬†may¬†allow users to quickly and¬†more-easily navigate to the section that is most relevant to them.¬†¬†
  • The team should consider¬†removing¬†the data tables¬†from¬†the bulletin unless there¬†is¬†a strong user need for it. The¬†data¬†tables are already available separately¬†as an Excel spreadsheet, as well as being included in the bulletin. Inserting¬†links into the relevant places in the bulletin¬†to help users¬†find the data¬†would aid the flow¬†and¬†readability¬†of the bulletin.¬†It may also improve the navigability of¬†HMTL pages¬†as,¬†currently, each data table is¬†presented in a separate tab.¬†¬†¬†
  • Adding details¬†to the bulletin about how the¬†team engages¬†with users would help to¬†further¬†demonstrate¬†to the public the quality¬†and value these statistics¬†add and¬†may facilitate further engagement¬†with¬†users.¬†¬†

Thank you to your team for their positive engagement during this review. We look forward to continuing to engage with you and the team, and we hope our findings inform the development of the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss any aspects of this letter further or if we can offer further assistance as these statistics continues to develop.  

Yours sincerely 

Mark Pont 

Assessment Programme Lead